Hundreds of years ago, dead body of a famous warrior was carried through here

“There is a lovely road that runs from Pune into the hills”. Well, you’re tempted to borrow from Alan Patton’s famous work as you negotiate the twists and turns of the narrow Pabe Ghat early morning in March on way to Velhe, a subdivision in the remote south-west corner of Pune district.

The forested hills and valleys are breathtakingly beautiful, and pretty secluded. The area’s sparsely populated — some 55,000 people residing in its 120-odd villages and hamlets.

A local shepherd wonders what’s the fuss about? For him the dry grass and falling leaves — the summer is setting in nicely — are an indication of the hard times ahead. The rocky slopes can barely hold rain water, so the women folk are busy fetching water as long as it lasts. Winter crop is rarely taken, as the locals prefer to travel the 60-odd kilometres to Pune, to work as casual labour.

The landscape is rich in history. The imposing Rajgadh and Torna forts stand testimony to pitched battles fought in the medieval era. Much blood had flown down its rivers and valleys. When Tanaji Malusare, one of Shivaji’s bravest warriors, was killed in the battle atop Sinhagad fort, his body was carried by fellow Mavalas to his native village down the steep slopes of Madheghat. That’s how the place got its name — Madhe in Marathi means dead body.

Looking at this rocky path carved out of the numerous spurs covered in thick vegetation, one wonders how they managed the feat in the middle of a dark night in 1670. Madheghat is a popular tourist spot now, its pointed spurs rising precariously before falling suddenly at a steep angle towards the coastal plains of Konkan, provide a breathtaking view of the valleys below on a sunny morning.

But you be warned — the short trek from the nearby Kelad village makes you very hungry. You’re advised to eat before you start. We had freshly cooked poha or flattened rice, accompanied by steaming tea, at the foothills of Torna. And after the trek, we headed straight for a delicious meal of mutton-bhakri and rice at the base of Rajgad around noon. By then the day temperatures were rising by the minute, and it was time to retreat.

Climbing the forts was not an option!

Inputs from Anosh Malekar

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